For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
15 This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. 16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day--and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.
We need to start this passage with the end of the previous: "I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles" because our section today starts "For this reason I. suffer". This is a fascinating statement! For the reason of being appointed a preacher, an apostle and teacher of the Gentiles, Paul suffered, and was executed. God appoints, and Paul suffers. What sort of appointment is this? This week's verses are a little disparate, but let us start by observing what it is like to serve God!
Thinking about it takes one right back many thousands of years. Noah was appointed to save the animals of the world and preserve the human race. In doing so he needed to spend 120 years building a boat, starting at age 500, get all the food on board needed, (imagine that grocery list), get his family together, and know at the same time that every one else he had ever met was going to die. He then spends a year or so on the boat, and when he gets off, nothing is left. No shops, no green grocer, no bakery, no other people. The world was empty! Absolutely empty, nothingness.
Another name that springs forth is Elijah, and in this potted version, he thought that he was the only God fearing person left on earth. God has him live in the desert fed by ravens; he then has a widow who feeds him - with flour and oil which God provides, a lot of pita bread there! He then has to kill the priests of Baal, and runs away, because he thinks that they are out to get him. Because he has a county's queen wanting to kill him, he runs away and goes miles into the desert, alone. And deserts are not called deserts because they have nice scenery. And then what? Does God send a nice quiet person to gently remind him that God was caring for him? Not at all! We read in 1 Kings 19:8 God's way of telling him what was to happen next:
So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?". Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
Imagine yourself there, with the mountain shaking, having rocks pounding around the place, earthquakes, and fire - sure you know that God is out there somewhere, but..! And after more hard work he eventually gets swept up to heaven in a fiery chariot. Apart from the amazing ending, was that an easy life in being a prophet?
Finally, we cannot go past Hosea in this interlude. Hosea chapter 1 verse 2 reads When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: "
Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry..
and in chapter three we read
"Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans. 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley." (Hosea 1:1&2)
Hosea, God says, not only will you be a prophet, but you need to live an example, marry a prostitute, and after she has gone wayward on you, buy her back, and love her! That will be your home life.! And here is what you need to say; not much of it complimentary to the Children of Israel.
A life serving God is not an easy thing. We heard last week from the second service preacher a Philippians verse, which is about the apostle Paul: chapter 3, verse 10:
"that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."
Paul knew this well, but then he states "nevertheless I am not ashamed". Not to be ashamed! He was in jail, he was there for his faith, and Paul can say with absolute solidness, "I am not ashamed". He believed and lived in God and God's promises.
We can read in Romans 4:16
"the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead . and the deadness of Sarah's womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Romans 4:16-22)
Which of course led Paul straight into the 5th chapter of Romans, in the same vein:
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:1-5)
And here we see in Second Timothy, that Paul not only wrote the words, he lived them.
So, dear friends, here is the challenge to every one of us today, some more so than others. It is O so easy to write about being faithful, about holiness, humbleness, meekness, and loving God. Words can easily tumble from the fingers to the keyboard, but is the life behind the fingers or tongue living the talk. Paul lived the talk. He had no need at all to be ashamed of how he had served His Lord!
Paul knew who he was serving, because he tells us exactly that: 'for I know whom I have believed'. The word 'know' is an interesting one. One can know about, or one can know, if you can see what I mean, or know.! (To put into different English). I am superficial, I have some knowledge, I am expert, or, it is my entire life, and I live it. I think we can say of Paul, the latter would be true. He knew, he understood that no matter what, no matter how, he had this most precious treasure that was worth more than anything else, and no one could take it away.
How do we know this? We cannot rely on the person out the front (ie the preacher), he is human, and not the expert on the topic. But God, He ensures that each verse we read can be explained, and God gives us, just for this occasion (for the purpose of the now) these verses written by Paul that provides the knowledge about the knowledge that Paul believed in. The verses are found in 2 Corinthians 4: starting at verse 7:
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-- 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
Paul writes with confidence, 'I know in whom I have believed'. He has a treasure within his earthen vessel, so do we, but how big is it? How much treasure have we collected - for a start - our salvation, a diamond on its own. God, however, tells us that we can collect more and more; which occur through our own knowledge of God, and our application of that knowledge in our lives on a day to day basis, working for our God, despite our circumstances.
Have you ever wondered sometimes about the value of this collection that God wants you to do? Life can be tough, and there may be no actually rewards physically present during your life, but, Paul makes sure you (and in this case Timothy) gets the point, for he writes:
[I] am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day"
MacDonald and Farstad write that we should take this line in its broadest sense, that Paul is saying that his entire case was in God's hands, including the gospel that he preached, and even if death intervened, God was in control, and nothing was to be lost. We know that the gospel, was launched by Paul in the Gentile world, and it boomed, and spread, and thus we meet today, generations down the track. We also see the gospel still being taught by Paul, through God's word, today. God did keep his word, as Paul started, in that he was persuaded that God would keep do so. Is this not an amazing thought, that we have here a prophecy fulfilled, every day, even today in this very room!
Take note of the final two words in this verse, that Day. In my Bible it is capitalised, and this means that it is not just a day, but a specific day. Again God tells us what "that Day" is, as in 2 Thessalonians 1:10
"when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe". (2 Thessalonians 1:10)
To make us quite understanding of this, Paul writes a little further in the letter in chapter 4, verse 10, the statement
"Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."
This tells us that 'That Day' is not the rapture; rather at the final coming of the Lord, when judgement takes place. This is significant, as all that Paul had committed to God will be kept until then. A thought for you, to keep and go and away and study. What does this mean? I suspect that verses in Revelation chapter 11, especially the first 10 verses will help.
Paul then gives some instruction for this letter's recipient, young Timothy.
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
We, like Timothy, have heard this before; in the first letter we have record of, in chapter 6 starting in verse 2:
Teach and exhort these things. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing".
Sound words! We heard last week about 4 layers of doctrine, noting that the absolute layer was the facts of the Word, clear Biblical statements, and the second was logical conclusions from clear Bible statements. Sound words!
Let us revisit John chapter 1 for a brief period, starting with verse 1, remembering as we read, Paul's exhortation to Timothy:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And verse 14: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-4,14)
So we know what "sound words" are; they are God's Word and only God's Words, any other words need to be treated with caution, tested against God's Word. Yes, they may be found to be sound, but Paul also says this interesting bit, which God left for us to contemplate: 'which you have heard from me'. That kind of excludes Stephen's word, or even Spurgeon's word, when reading these verses in Timothy, and looking at what one holds fast to. After all, everything God wants us to believe in is in His Word, ours are supplementary, and not really needed, though God allows us to help others through feeble attempts such as this sermon today.
We can read, starting in Galatians 1:6 a very strong statement by Paul about the Gospel. Paul states "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." Let him be accursed. God's word is so sacred, that creating any changes, that is, a different gospel, is a dire matter. We have to be so careful, that as we tell the story, to anyone anytime, that we ensure that we tell the Gospel as God had his four authors write it, and his commentators comment on it, and that the background about it - The Old Testament, stays true to the original that God gave.
The final part of this verse is interesting as well - (we have much interesting subject matter today!!) Paul writes that the holding fast is to be
'in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus'.
What is faith and love? How do these fit with the Word. Perhaps we need to revisit 1 Thessalonians 5:8
"But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation."
Or from Ephesians 6:13
Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
Depending on Paul's emphasis, faith is part of the armour of God, as is love; these are protecting elements along with the breastplate or the shield, whereas the Word is your weapon. Romans 1:17 states
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
Righteousness and faith are two attributes that go hand in hand, have faith in God, love God in an active way, that is, obeying His ways, and righteousness is then portrayed, with sin in your life being defeated.
So, in this little reflection, one can see that to hold fast the Word of God, that Paul has given to Timothy, it must be done in faith and love. We know from God's Word, that He has given us armour, and the sword to enable the 'holding fast' part of Paul's instruction so it can be done! See how all of God's Word is connected somehow, somewhere, for every occasion.
Let us move forward in our passage, despite the temptation to stay and explore more this topic. The next verse reads: 'That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us." Paul is re-emphasising the 'sound words' exhortation, this time with the words 'That good thing'. Paul has already noted that suffering comes from being a preacher, apostle and teacher of the gospel, and he knows that Timothy too will need help to keep it sound; keep it unadulterated; keep it away from apostasy that we heard about last week. Paul tells Timothy, and us, that this can be achieved, through the Holy Spirit, the manifestation of God who dwells in us. We know this because it is written in 1 Corinthians 3:16
"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?".
We also know that the Holy Spirit teaches as we find this earlier in 1 Corinthians 2:11
Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
Timothy may have read this letter, and Paul is reminding him how one keeps the spiritual things committed, through the Holy Spirit dwelling within, teaching the things of God. So it is with us, therefore, have an open house for the Holy Spirit, not crammed in some back cupboard of the mind, letting it out briefly when a spiritual face is needed. But through the relationship we can have with the Holy Spirit, we will learn the things of God, especially that good thing each one of us is instructed to share.
Peter tells us that we cannot share the gospel without the Holy Spirit, in 1 Peter 1:12
"To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven".
Again, see how Scripture ties it all together. The Gospel cannot be given within the Holy Spirit within, and the Holy Spirit within is the only way we will learn and understand the gospel, so to keep the gospel committed, true, as God's word unadulterated, without apostasy, we must ensure that we have a body that is the Holy Temple spoken of in Corinthians. Paul's message to Timothy applies to us this very day, without exception, with all its emphasis.
It appears, to make the point, Paul shows the opposing truth, with the statement: 15 This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. Often, peoples' names have meanings that double in the message. These two named individuals, forever in the file of shame have interesting meanings to their names. It is actually, all we really know about them, that they turned away, and their names reflect their status, the first: Phygellus - fugitive, a fugitive from God. The second Hermogenes - born of Hermes, Hermes being patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of thieves and road travelers, of orators and wit, of literature and poets, of athletics, of weights and measures, of invention, of general commerce, and of the cunning of thieves and liars. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes). What can we learn from this one liner in this book; God is willing to name and shame for all time, those who have turned away from Him. We live in a world that does not believe in blame. God writes the names of turncoats on the walls. His book is full of such names, Cain, Esau, Alexander the coppersmith in this very book, and Judas. God also names those that may have had problems, but remained faithful to Himself, David and Samson come to mind, as does Peter.
Then there is Onesiphorus, Paul tells Timothy -
The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day--and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus."
I was reading some commentary and came across in MacDonald and Farstad's work a quote from J. H. Jowett, born in 1864, a preacher who was recognised as a man of wisdom in teaching. They write that Jowett "expressed it [commentary on Onesiphorus] exquisitely:
It is a beautiful lineament in the character of Onesiphorus which is given in the Apostle's phrase, "He was not ashamed of my chain." ... A man's chain often lessens the circle of his friends. The chain of poverty keeps many people away, and so does the chain of unpopularity. When a man is in high repute he has many friends. When he begins to wear a chain, the friends are apt to fall away. But the ministers of the morning breeze love to come in the shades of night. They delight to minister in the region of despondency, and where the bonds lie heaviest upon the soul. "He was not ashamed of my chain." The chain was really an allurement. It gave speed to the feet of Onesiphorus and urgency to his ministry.
Little more is know about this man, the only other place we note the name is in the final set of greetings in this book. His story is quite an example, a case in point for us today. He often refreshed Paul. Paul does not say how, but we can imagine refreshment through company, through encouragement. Where does this thought take you? It took me to Matthew 25: 34
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 `for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'
It could easily read, "Then the King will say to Onesiphorus.!"
Before moving on, one needs to comment on the commentaries on these verses. Some say that Onesiphorus was dead when Paul wrote these verses, and therefore, this is a prayer for the dead. However, these verses do not say that he had died, and hence this interpretation appears to be an interpretation to meet a need of some, but otherwise a lie. There are much stronger arguments as to why Paul may write such words. One of these would be regarding the persecution of the saints, and for the Lord to grant mercy to Onesiphorus's household (verse 16). Therefore he may be implying a prayer that they are able to stand firm with God's mercy, and not fall aside as the two already described backsliders. One may also anticipate a man like Paul, not to want Onesiphorus to suffer as he was suffering, or any of his household. The second call for mercy is for Onesiphorus himself, related to the Judgement Seat. This is where we all get our just reward. Praying for Onesiphorus after he died is a bit pointless, Scripture points out that one cannot save someone else (we can lead and direct, encourage and teach but not save). It appears that Paul was reminding God of the character of Onesiphorus, and providing us an example, of the faithfulness and the good will that Onesiphorus showed towards Paul. This is enlarged in the final verse: "and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus". Paul here is saying that it wasn't just in Rome that Onesiphorus was helpful to him, it was also when he was a free man, and preaching in Ephesus.
I think that we can take from this that intercessory prayer is biblical. It means pointing out to God, even though He already knows, the faithfulness of someone else, or the serving attitude that someone is portraying. One might say, Lord bless Onesiphorus, as he has blessed me. That Day is the judgement day, so the word "mercy" is far more fitting, and no doubt, why God has Paul use it. It is nothing to do with salvation, it is more to do with highlighting the godliness of a saved person, and ignoring their faults, praying to God - let that person's straw and wood burn, but don't deduct points towards the crown! 1 Peter 3:8 says this in a far better way:
"Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing."
So, in conclusion, what can we take away from these verses today? How can we apply them immediately into our lives and lifestyle?
1/. Suffering is part of a Christian life. Lack of suffering may mean a lack of sincerity in one's walk (another sermon in itself, but Satan attacks more, those doing the most work against him), but, if one has trials and temptations, rejoice in them. I think we can note, that as with Paul, keeping silent about ones suffering is not necessary, Paul shares. If someone shares their pain, ministering to them and praying for them is the expected response.
2/. The Gospel as written in the Bible, and all the words as found in the Bible, come under the heading 'sound words'. When something is sound, stand on it, for it will be a firm foundation (a solid rock). If someone tells you something, make sure it marries 100% with the Biblical truths. If you can't find an exact match, ignore, drop the idea, run, flee, do not go there!
3/. The Holy Spirit is not some ethereal ghost floating around, some vague entity somewhere inside, though He can be if we ignore Him. The Holy Spirit has been given to us, so we have a teacher, right there, any time of day or night, and just for us. We need to be good students!
4/. If you turn away from God, He is able to name and shame you. This may be here, as with our two characters in this section, or He may do it on That Day. Stay with God, he is always faithful.
5/. Our role in life is to seek out and find someone worse of than ourselves to encourage, feed, look after, pray for, may be even just let them know that you care. It may make all the difference to that person's spiritual life. Look at Paul, ready to be executed, but he writes a letter to Timothy to instruct and encourage him. And of course there is the example of Onesiphorus. This is our lesson today.